In Troubadour-Land - A Ramble in Provence and Languedoc
by S. Baring-Gould
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Do not be troubled," said Fronto, "you do not understand what I have been about."

Now it fell out that whilst at Tarascon Fronto was engaged in burying Martha, he had taken off his glove and ring, and had put them into the hands of the sacristan. When Fronto informed the congregation at Perigeux what he had been about, they disbelieved. However, messengers were sent to Tarascon, and his glove and ring were identified. These were preserved as relics in the church till the Revolution. Unfortunately for the story, Fronto of Perigeux belongs to the fourth century, so that the lapse in dream was not merely a skip over half France, but also through four centuries.

Tarascon has some picturesque bits in the town, arcades with shops underneath, and quaint doorways of Renaissance work; but its chief charm after the castle is certainly the view across the river to the heights of Beaucaire with its grand ruins.

I lunched at an hotel where, nearly opposite me, was a gentleman who had been at Marseilles on the arrival of the President, and was very full of what he had seen. At the table were half-a-dozen beside myself, and he held forth to them on the spectacle. Opposite him sat a bullet-headed commercial traveller.

"But," said the latter, "I would not have crossed the Rhone by the bridge of Tarascon to have seen him. What is M. Sadi-Carnot? He is naught."

"No, but he represents the nation. Give us a pump as president, and we must garland that pump with flowers. And believe me, c'est un vilain metier cet de president. If he leans a little too much on this side he goes down into the mud, a little too much on the other he rolls in the dust. One must feel some respect for the man who undertakes such a thankless office. And, again, when a man rides in an open landau in pelting rain, when il lui pleut dans le nez, without an umbrella, with his hat off, saluting right and left, he deserves recognition."

"It was not worth the cost of his entertainment. I am surprised that Marseilles did it."

"I beg pardon. It was worth while doing it. Had the weather been fine, it would have brought money into the town."

"What! Would any English and American travellers desert Montecarlo for a day to see a Sadi-Carnot?"

"No, but every woman in Marseilles would have bought a new kerchief or a trinket to make herself smart, just because it was a fete. As it was, money circulated."

"How so?"

"One thousand and ninety-seven umbrellas were sold that day at prices ranging from five to fifteen francs, which on other occasions sell for two francs twenty-five centimes, and ten francs."

I do not know whether I have been peculiarly unfortunate in lighting on only one class of men under the present regime, but whether it be in France, Switzerland, Belgium, or Italy, that I have come across Frenchmen and had a talk with them of late years, I have noticed a prevailing discouragement, a pessimism, that certainly was absent in former days. The very character of a French table d'hote is changed. Instead of Gallic vivacity, merriment, and general conversation, such as one was wont to find there, one encounters silence, reserve, and a marked absence of self-assertion. It is the Germans who are now boisterous and self-assertive at table. The French are quiet and subdued. As I have already said, I may be mistaken; I may have hit on exceptional cases, but it is a fact that those Frenchmen I have conversed with during the last two or three years have been oppressed with a conviction that France has lost caste among the nations, that her future is menaced, and they say that they see no way out of their present condition.

As one said to me last winter in Rome: "The idea of France is an abstraction. We range ourselves now under parties, our devotion is no longer to our country but to our party. Have you ever been at a stag hunt? When the noble beast is down the huntsman slices it open and throws the heart and liver and entrails to the hounds. Then ensues a battle. Every dog snatches at what he desires, and envies the other the piece of offal he has secured. All are filled with hatred of each other, and selfish greed as to who can eat most and the best morsels of the fallen beast. And that is a picture of France. If war came upon us, we must infallibly be overthrown, for each general would be seeking out of the accidents of warfare to steal an advantage for himself or the party he favours."

The town of Beaucaire, on the farther side of the Rhone, is fuller of picturesque points than is Tarascon. Seated at the head of the Beaucaire Canal, that communicates with the sea, it has that commercial prosperity which is lacking at Tarascon. The old church is an exact reproduction of that of S. Martha, but has in addition a most remarkable font, a structure rising in stages like a tower, and with a spire to cap it, resembling somewhat the sacramental tabernacles in the German churches. The Hotel de Ville is a picturesque Renaissance building with bold open staircase on pillars. The castle of Beaucaire crowns the ridge of limestone that extends across the country from Nimes and is cut through by the Rhone, again emerging, in a low eminence, at Tarascon. This noble castle was taken by Simon de Montfort in the Albigensian War from the Count of Toulouse, but the youthful Raymond VII., though only nineteen years old, laid siege to it in 1216, and succeeded in recovering it. In this siege, the inhabitants of the town, under the young count, assailed the castle. Simon de Montfort collected an army and attacked Raymond in the rear. There is a very curious account of this siege in a Provencal poem on the Albigensian War, from which I will quote a few lines, only premising that in the original the castle is called the Capitol:—

"The townsmen set up their engines against the Crusaders in the castle, and so battered it that castle and watch-tower were broken, beams and lead and stone. At Holy Easter the battering-ram was made ready, long, iron-headed, sharp, which so struck and cut that the wall was injured, and the stones began to fall out. But the besieged were not discouraged; they made a loop of cords attached to a wooden beam, and with that they caught the head of the ram and held it fast. This troubled those of Beaucaire sore; till the master engineer came, and he set the ram in motion once more. Then several of the assailants got up the rock, and began to detach portions of the wall with their picks. This the besieged were ware of, and they let down upon them sulphur and pitch and fire in sackcloth by a chain along the wall, and when it blazed it broke forth and was spilt over the workmen, and suffocated them so that not one could there continue. Then they went to their machines for casting stones, and they threw them with such effect into the castle as to break all the beams thereof."

Beaucaire castle is now in ruins, but the Romanesque chapel remains in tolerable condition. In it Louis IX. is said to have heard Mass before he embarked for the crusade to Egypt. The pretty old Provencal poem of Aucassin and Nicolette, which has been recently translated into English by Mr. Andrew Lang and daintily published, has its scene laid at Beaucaire. Tieck gave a version of it in his "Phantasus."

As we are on the very scene of this graceful little tale, I must give the essence of it. The romance, which dates from the second half of the thirteenth century, is in prose, mingled with scraps of rhyme, destined to be sung, and with their musical notation given. At the head of each scrap of verse comes the rubric "Now is to be sung," and the prose passages are headed, "Now is to be said."

Aucassin was the son of the Count of Beaucaire. He was fair of face, with light curled hair and grey eyes. Now there was a viscount in the town who had bought of the Saracens a little maid, and he taught her the Christian faith, and had her baptised and called Nicolette.

Then said the Count of Beaucaire to his son Aucassin that he should go to battle and win his spurs and be dubbed a knight. Aucassin replied that he had no wish to be a knight, unless his father would give him Nicolette "ma douce mie" to wife. The count is indignant. He says that his son must marry the daughter of a king or of a count; but Aucassin replies that were an empress offered him he would refuse her for Nicolette. Thereat the count goes to the viscount and bids him give up the little maid that he may burn her as a witch. The viscount hesitates, and promises he will put her out of reach of Aucassin. Thereupon he shuts her up in a tower, along with her nurse, where there is but a single window. And the count promises his son that he shall have his "douce mie" if he will go to fight against the mortal enemy of their house, the Count of Vallence. Aucassin believes his father; goes and captures the count. Then the father refuses to fulfil his promise. Aucassin in a rage releases the Count of Vallence, and the Count of Beaucaire imprisons his son in a tower of the castle.

One moonlight night, when her nurse is asleep, Nicolette ties the bedclothes together and lets herself down out of the window, escapes from the town, and goes under the castle, where she hears Aucassin lamenting in his prison. She speaks to him and he replies.

But (as it is ascertained that she has escaped) the guard are sent forth in search of her, with orders to run her through the body if found. However, the chief officer of the guard is a merciful man, and so, as he goes about, he sings a song to warn her, and she hides in the shadow of the tower till the watch is gone by and then flies away into the forest land. There she builds herself a hut. When no tidings of Nicolette are heard, the Count of Beaucaire lets his son forth from prison. One day, as Aucassin rides in the forest, he lights on the cabin of his dear Nicolette, and they resolve to fly together. So they take a boat on the Rhone and they are washed down towards the sea, captured by Saracen pirates and separated. Aucassin is ransomed and returns home. Nicolette stains her face, makes her escape, obtains a vielle, and travels about Provence, singing ballads. She comes to Beaucaire, where Aucassin is now count, his father having died, and sings to her hurdy-gurdy the song of her adventures. The tears run down his cheeks, and he promises her rich gifts if she will tell him more. Then she goes to the viscountess—the viscount is dead—washes off the walnut juice, dresses in best array, is seen and recognised by Aucassin, they are married with great pomp, and are happy ever after. A dear little innocent story, fresh and sweet with the springtime bloom of early literature, withal full of curious pictures of the feelings of the time relative to chivalry, monachism, and religion.



The right spelling of Nimes—Derivation of name—The fountain—Throwing coins into springs—Collecting coins—Symbol of Agrippa—Character of Agrippa—What he did for Nimes—The Maison Carree—Different idea of worship in the Heathen world from what prevails in Christendom—S. Baudille—Vespers—Activity of the Church in France—Behaviour of the Clergy in Italy to the King and Queen—The Revolution a blessing to the Church in France—Church services in Italy and in France—The Tourmagne—Uncertainty as to its use—Cathedral of Nimes—Other churches—A canary lottery—Altars to the Sun—The sun-wheel—The Cross of Constantine—Anecdote of Flechier.

I pray the reader to observe how I spell the name of Nimes, with neither an s nor a circumflex, neither as Nismes, nor as Nimes, for both are wrong. Nimes is Nemausus, and there is no s to be sounded or suppressed in the ancient name of the place, which comes from the Keltic naimh, a fountain or spring. And in very truth no other name could better suit it, for here under a limestone hill wells up the river in one large flood sufficient for boats to go on it at once. This great green spring, ever flowing, mysterious even nowadays, is the great feature of Nimes, and this fountain certainly awoke the veneration of the old Gauls, who believed it to be a direct gift of the gods. One follows up a canal between streets planted with trees, and looks down into the pure water like liquid green glass, then suddenly reaches a garden. Above rises a wooded hill, thick with pines, syringa, Judas tree of brilliant pink lake, laburnum with its chains of gold, forming an arc of flowers, and sees before one a wide enclosed pool, walled round, of the shape of the figure 8, heaving with cold pure water that flows away under the terrace and falls with a roar to the lower level of the canal. On one side are ruins—of a temple to the Nymphs; but one cannot at first look at that, the volume of water engages one—a lake lifting itself up by its own strength out of the earth, always, night and day, inexhaustible, hardly varying in volume, coming no one knows whence, deep and green, with no visible bottom, without a bubble, without a ruffle—it is indeed wonderful. I have seen the spring of the Danube at Donaueschingen: it is nothing to this; the fountain of Vaucluse one can understand—it breaks out from a cave in the mountainside, like scores of others; this is otherwise—a river rising with no fuss, no display, no noise, without even a ripple.

It does not gush, it does not boil up. It is simply one glassy surface, and looking at it you cannot conceive that it is a river rising vertically and sliding away under your feet. Pliny says of the source of the Clitumnus: "At the foot of a little hill covered with venerable and shady trees, a spring issues which, gushing out in different and unequal streams, forms itself, after several windings, into a spacious basin, so extremely clear that you may see the pebbles, and the little pieces of money that are thrown into it, as they lie at the bottom." I have quoted this passage, not because the source of the Clitumnus at all resembles that of the river at Nimes, but because of the mention of the coins thrown in. Suetonius speaks of this same practice in his life of Augustus. Now this fountain at Nimes has yielded, and yields still, an almost inexhaustible supply of Roman and Gaulish and Gallo-Greek coins that have been thus thrown in as oblations to the nymphs in remote times; and these coins are now in the museums of Nimes and Paris, and in those of private collectors. The same custom still remains, but instead of coins, pins are now cast into springs.

At the entrance to the public gardens, over the iron gate is a medallion representing a crocodile and a palm-tree. The moment I saw it I stood still and stared. I knew that symbol, had known it from a boy. And this is how I came to know it. Living much in the south of France, and having always a hankering after old things, I collected coins, and I got them from the priests. The peasants were wont to drop old Roman coins which they found in their fields into the offertory bags and plates, and as these were of no use to the cures, they were very glad to give or sell them to me for small current sous. By this means I succeeded in making a very tolerable collection of Roman coins at an incredibly small cost. Now among these, one of the very first I got, and most curious, represented Octavius and Agrippa on one side, and on the reverse this identical symbol of a crocodile under a palm tree. Often enough did I turn that coin over and wonder what it meant, and highly delighted was I to discover its signification at length. It was symbolical of the subjugation of Egypt, and was struck in compliment to Agrippa. Then most assuredly Agrippa had something to do with Nimes. I turned to a little history of the place that I had, and to my delight found that he it was who is held to have been the great benefactor, indeed maker, of this little town.

I have the greatest possible respect for Agrippa. His stern, yet noble face, once seen in this bust is never to be forgotten, and infinitely sad—sad beyond comparison in history is the story of his family.

He was a man of obscure, plebeian birth, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, belonging to a family, the Vipsanian, of which the gentlemen of Rome professed never to have heard, or not to have found it necessary to trouble their heads to learn anything. He was a fine soldier, a man of plain manners, good morals, upright, faithful, unambitious. Octavius Augustus was warmly attached to him, and valued his good qualities and his admirable military genius; and Agrippa on his side was tenderly devoted to his noble friend. Their characters were as unlike as their faces and as their manners. When Octavius became the supreme ruler of the destinies of Rome, he heaped honours on his friend. He made him put away his wife and marry his own daughter Julia. He had children by her, Caius and Lucius, who grew to man's estate and then died, one from a wound, the other of decline, and another son, an ill-conditioned boy, Agrippa Posthumus, put to death, probably by order of Octavius, a commission given on his own deathbed, to save Rome from internecine war.

His daughter, Agrippina, starved herself to death, heartbroken at the murder of her two sons by Tiberius, and despairing at the thought that her other son, the crazy, debauched, cruel Caligula was alone left to represent her family. The other daughter of Agrippa, Julia, was infamous for her debaucheries, and died in banishment. The family was then represented by the second Agrippina, daughter of the first Agrippina, who became the mother of Nero—that son who was his mother's and his brother's murderer, and died finally by his own hand, amidst the execrations of the Roman world.

The sad shadow that lies on the brow of Agrippa almost seems to be cast there by the destiny awaiting his family. Not one drop of his blood mingled with the sacred ichor of the Julian race remains on earth. But other remnants of Agrippa abide. The Pantheon of Rome, and the Pont du Gard near Nimes, aye—and the baths he made for the washerwomen in the water he led into this town, that they might not sully the sacred spring that welled up before the temple of the Nymphs.

Agrippa in his various offices and governorships accumulated great wealth, but he was not a grasping man, nor one who spent his wealth upon himself. Wherever he was, he expended his fortune on improving and embellishing the cities under his sway. Thus it was that for quite an inconsiderable little town, which the classic authors pass over without notice, he lavished very large sums to provide it with excellent water from two springs twenty-five miles distant, not that the river that rises at Nimes is impure, but that a certain awe felt for it withheld the natives from desecrating the sacred waters to common use.

The Pont du Gard which carried the waters by three tiers of arches across the valley of the Gurdon, at a height of one hundred and eighty feet, is one of the most striking and perfect of the monuments left by the Romans in Gaul, or anywhere; and it is certainly remarkable that the two most complete relics of this great people that remain, should have been the work of Agrippa, the Pantheon and the Pont du Gard. This latter is a colossal work. Its length is 873 feet at top, and may well be compared to its advantage with the modern aqueduct that conveys water to the Prado of Montpellier, a more lengthy, but a feeble structure.

The Roman remains in Nimes are held famous everywhere. Nowhere, least of all in Rome, are the relics of that great people of builders to be seen in such perfection. There is the amphitheatre, smaller, but more perfect even, than that at Arles. There is the Maison Carree, a temple almost quite perfect, and of surpassing proportional perfection. Small this temple is: it consists of thirty elegant Corinthian columns, ten of which are disengaged, and form the portico, whereas the remainder are engaged in the naos or sanctuary. No engraving can give an idea of its loveliness. It is the best example we have in Europe, of a temple that is perfectly intact. It is mignon, it is cheerful, it is charming. I found myself unable at any time to pass it without looking round over my shoulder, again and again, and uttering some exclamation of pleasure at the sight of it.

That temple is instructive in a way the ordinary traveller would hardly suspect. It is a valuable example to us of the complete and radical difference that existed between the Pagan and the Christian ideas of worship. The Pagan world had no idea of gathering a congregation together, any more than I may say have the old canons of Florence, or of S. Peter's, Rome, who shut themselves into glass boxes, of bringing all men into one building to unite in prayer and praise. The sanctuaries of the Pagan gods were quite small and dark. Worship was simply an individual matter, a bringing of a sacrifice to an altar. There was nothing like congregational worship in the Jewish temple either. The priest alone went within to offer the incense, whilst the people stood without. But in the Christian church the condition of affairs was completely reversed. The worship of God was to be for all the people, all together, with one heart and one voice. That is why the early Christians in the fourth century never adapted a temple to a church. A temple could not be adapted. The pillars were all outside, and within was a little dark box—the sanctuary—that would not hold more than a couple of score of persons. They could not use the temples; what they wanted were temples turned outside-in, the pillars within forming great halls in which a crowd might be gathered.

I had been looking at this delightful little temple and considering this, and it was a Sunday. I sauntered on, this still on my mind, when I fell in with trains of school children, all drifting in one direction. I followed them, and found myself in the great new church of S. Baudille. The time was afternoon. The church, quite a cathedral in size, was crowded, boys' schools, girls' schools, men, women, of all sorts and ranks were there. Then I heard such a service as did the heart good to hear. It was only vespers—just five psalms, a hymn, and the Magnificat; nothing more. But the psalms were sung in alternate verses between the choir and the congregation, who knew every word and every note, and sang lustily from their hearts' depths, the plain old Gregorian tones with which many of us are so familiar at home. I found the words welling up in my mind: "The voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth." I was glad there was no one with me as we dispersed, to speak to me. I could not have answered, my heart was too full. But I went back to the Maison Carree, and looked again at it for long, and then realised, in a way I had never realised before, how that the Carpenter of Nazareth had transformed the whole idea of worship into something of which the world previously had no conception.

To the ordinary English traveller the services in a foreign Roman Catholic church are so unintelligible that I may be excused if I say a word on vespers that may enable him to understand it. Usually—always on week days—two evening services, vespers and compline are said together, or rather one immediately after the other. Each consists of confession and absolution, a short Scriptural lesson, psalms, a canticle, a hymn and collects. The canticle for vespers is the Magnificat; for compline is the Nunc Dimittis.

Now as the two services were practically united, what our Reformers did was to weld them together. They cut out the second confession and absolution and the second batch of psalms, but retained the second lesson and the second canticle. The English even-song is therefore simply the Latin vespers and compline pressed into a single service. The Reformers, by putting a psalm as alternative for each canticle, perhaps intended the English even-song to serve as either vespers (when Magnificat was sung) or as compline (when Nunc Dimittis was sung).

When I was in Rome during the winter, I was very much astonished, one day, as the King of Italy passed, to see a whole school of little boys under the direction of three Christian Brothers, strut by with their little noses in the air, and without raising their hats. At the same pension with myself was a young Swiss Benedictine monk, who sat by me at table d'hote, and with whom I struck up a warm friendship. I commented to him on what I had seen. "Oh!" he replied, "we make a point of never saluting the king. Why," he continued, "only yesterday I was walking down the Corso with Cardinal U——, when we saw the queen's carriage approaching. I asked what was to be done. His eminence replied, 'Keep your hat on, don't notice her.'"

I confess that my English blood boiled up, and for the first and last time I spoke sharply to my friend. I believe I made a certain allusion to an injunction of S. Paul, and told him plainly that I thought such conduct unbecoming in a gentleman and a Christian, and a priest.

On entering France ones sees what devastation the Revolution wrought on the Church, and one compares the condition there with the very light and easy way in which she has been taken out of her temporal throne and seated on the ground in Italy. She has been treated there too easily, so easily that she pouts, and frets, and sulks; whereas in France she has been an Antaeus who rose from the ground stronger than when cast down. In Rome, the Church shuffles along in her old slouching, hands-in-the-pockets, half-asleep, don't-care style, letting every opportunity slip away, neglected by the people, because she neglects them. In France, the Church is tingling with fresh life-blood to her fingers' ends, full of energy, activity, zeal. Why, there is not to be found in Rome, or Florence, or Naples, a church where a tolerable service is to be heard sung. In Rome one gets sick of and angry with the squalling of eunuchs, and longs for a scourge of small cords to drive them out of the temple. No one cares for the Church services in Rome. No attempt is made to attract the people to them. At Florence the service is like the bleating of a flock of sheep driven into a pen to be shorn, and the old canons who baa are enclosed within glass against draughts, and to the exclusion of all congregational worship. But in France, the people who have any religion in them love their services—love them and have made them their own, sing in them and follow them with eager interest. I remember, when I was a youth in France, that few men were seen in church, and the ladies lounged through the service. It is not so now, you see as many men in church as you will in England, and the women are attentive and devout. The Italian Church must suffer deeper humiliation, and learn to touch her cap to "the powers that be, ordained of God," before the people will rally to her and show her reverence.

On the summit of the hill above the fountain and temple of the Nymphs is a most puzzling building, the Tourmagne. It is of Roman construction, a great tower like that of Babel, in stages, the upper stage with semicircular recesses that sustained the external wall, now in part fallen. No one can tell its purpose. It has clearly been utilised since its first construction by the Romans, by making it an angle tower of some other building, the foundations of which have been quite recently exposed. The tower is octagonal. It resembles the structure of the lighthouse at Ostia, already mentioned as in the Torlonia gallery. But why a lighthouse here? It is true that to the south of Nimes was lagoon and marsh, with islets and strips of dry land scattered about among the tracts of water, all the way to the sea, but one hardly supposes such a lighthouse would have been raised to guide the utriculares on their skin-sustained rafts. Yet for what other purpose it can have been raised it is hard to imagine. It stands on very high ground, and commands a most extensive prospect. It has long been, and is likely to remain, a hard nut for antiquaries to break their teeth upon.

The cathedral of Nimes has been, not so much restored as transformed internally, so as to void it of much interest, but it must have been a curious church at one time. Externally, at the west end, is a most wonderful frieze, a band of rich sculpture representing the story of man from the Creation to the drunkenness of Noah. In one chapel within is an old Christian sarcophagus utilised as an altar, on it our Lord is represented as teacher surrounded by the apostles. S. Paul is a modern church good in proportion, with an admirable central octagonal tower and spire. The only fault to be found with the church is in the details. S. Baudille is a pretentious Gothic church, with two asparagus shoots as western towers, it has a square east end, with a really marvellously ugly east window. The new church of S. Perpetue is beneath criticism.

There are two Roman triumphal arches at Nimes, but neither is remarkable. In front of one I found a man exhibiting a cage of canaries. He had a little table before the cage on which small cards, each numbered, were set out. Then he sold among the bystanders tickets with corresponding numbers. There were eighteen numbers, and each card sold for a sou, and the whole constituted a lottery for a chain and some seals that the fellow dangled before the eyes of the little circle of lookers-on. The lots were taken up after a little persuasion and chaffering. Then he opened the cage door; out hopped a canary that trotted up and down the little table, and finally picked up one of the cards. "Number nine," called the proprietor of the canaries. "Which monsieur is the happy possessor of card number nine?" A soldier stepped forward, presented his tally, and received the silver watch-chain. Then all those who had been unsuccessful restored their cards, and the same process was repeated, this time among women, for a silver thimble.

Nimes struck me as one of the very brightest, pleasantest towns I have ever visited, and the one in which, if forced to live out of England, I think I could live most happily in. I have said not one word about the museum at Nimes, which is within the Maison Carree, and yet the museum contains some objects deserving of attention. There are two altars with wheels carved on them, both small, the largest only two feet three inches high, and that has on it not the wheel only, but the thunderbolt. These are altars to the Gaulish god of the sun. The second bears an inscription "et terrae matri." It was dedicated doubtless to the "sun and to the earth mother," but the first portion of the legend is lost. In the Avignon Museum is a statue of a Gaulish Jupiter in military costume, with his right hand on the wheel, and with the eagle on his left. [1]

[Footnote 1: Others at Treves, Moulin, and Paris.]

Moreover, in the Nimes museum are some bronze circular ornaments, found in 1883 in the caves of S. Vallon in Ardeche, representing the wheel. On the triumphal arch of Orange are Gaulish warriors with horned helmets, and wheels as crests between the horns. The wheel, as symbol of the sun, was very general everywhere, in the east as well as the west, among the Germans as well as among the Gauls, but among the latter it assumed a very special importance, and it is due to this fact that in the French cathedrals the west window is a wheel window. At Basle there is a round window in the minster with figures climbing and falling on the spokes, and Fortune sits in the midst. It is a wheel of Fortune. It is the same at Beauvais, at Amiens, and elsewhere. At Chartres is a representation in stained glass of the Transfiguration; and Christ is exhibited in glory in the midst of an eight-spoked wheel. A curious statue at Luxeuil, now lost, represented a rider protecting a lady whilst his horse tramples on a prostrate foe; his raised hand over the woman is thrust through a six-rayed wheel. On the Meuse a similar peculiarity has been noticed in a fragment of a sculptured figure, it is a hand holding a four-spoked wheel. In the Museum Kircherianum at Rome are bronze six-rayed wheels, the spokes zigzagged like lightnings, found at Forli, others at Modena. All these were symbols of the sun. Now when Constantine professed to have seen his vision, which was in all probability a mock-sun, he thought that the rays he saw formed the Greek initials of Christ, and he therefore ordered these initials, forming a six-rayed wheel, to be set up on the standards of his soldiers. The only difference between his "Labarum" and the symbol of the Gaulish sun-god was that his upper spoke was looped to form the letter P. No doubt whatever, that his Keltic soldiers hailed the new standard as that of their national god, and that when they marched against Maxentius and met him at Saxa Rubra, eight miles from Rome, they thought that they, as Gauls, were marching to a second capture of the capital of the world, under the protection of their national god.

Among men of note that have been associated with Nimes is Flechier, born at Pernes in Vaucluse in 1632, who became Bishop of Nimes in 1687. He was the son of a tallow-chandler. From his eloquence he was much regarded as a preacher, but unfortunately his discourses contain very little except well-rounded sentences of well-chosen words. He was a favourite of Louis XIV., who respected his integrity and piety. One day a haughty aristocratic prelate about the Court had the bad taste to sneer at him for his origin. "Avec votre maniere de penser," replied Flechier calmly, "je crois que si vous etiez ne ce que je suis, vous n'eussiez fait, toute votre vie—que de chandelles."



A dead town—The Rhones-morts—Bars—S. Louis and the Crusades—How S. Louis acquired Aigues Mortes—His canal—The four littoral chains and lagoons—The fortifications—Unique for their date—Original use of battlements—Deserted state of the town—Maguelonne—How reached—History of Maguelonne—Cathedral—The Bishops forge Saracen coins—Second destruction of the place—Inscription on door—Bernard de Treviis—His Romance of Pierre de Provence—Provencal poetry not always immoral—Present state of Maguelonne.

Aigues Mortes is a dead town, and differs from Maguelonne, to be presently described, in this, that it is a dead town, whereas Maguelonne is only the ghost of a dead town. It is a great curiosity, for it is a dead mediaeval town surrounded by its walls, and dominated by its keep. But first about its name, which signifies Dead Waters. If the reader will remember what has been already said about the structure of the delta of the Rhone, he will recall the fact that the river is constantly engaged in changing its mouths. When it has formed for itself a new mouth, it deserts its former course, which it leaves as a stagnating canal. This occasions the delta to be striped with what are locally termed Rhones-morts, whereas a flowing branch is called a Rhone-vif.

Moreover the stagnant masses of water left by floods are called Aigues Mortes—Dead Waters; and it is precisely on such that the little fortified town I am now writing about, stands. I know of no point on the littoral of the Rhone that offers so excellent an opportunity of observing the processes of that river than at Aigues Mortes. The river has, indeed, long ago deserted the branch that once discharged itself here, and it has left four lines behind it, making successive stages of advance, four bars, with their several backwaters, now converted into ponds or meres. The Canal of Beaucaire now passes by Aigues Mortes, and reaches the Mediterranean nearly three miles below the town.

It was from Aigues Mortes that S. Louis sailed on his Crusades in 1248 and 1270; and it has a little puzzled many people to account for his having chosen such a wretched place as this for the assembly of his Crusaders and for embarkation. But he could not help himself.

As soon as Louis had, in 1244, made his vow to assume the cross, his first care was to obtain on the shores of the Mediterranean a territory and a port sufficient for the concentration of the troops that were to from his expedition. But he encountered great difficulty. The king was not suzerain over the southern provinces of France, and possessed as his own not a single town on the coast. The port of Narbonne was choked with sand, and belonged to the viscounts of that town. The port of Maguelonne was under the sovereignty of the bishop. The lagoons and their openings into the sea of Montpellier were under the King of Aragon. The ports of Agde and S. Gilles were subject to the counts of Toulouse, and independent Provence was not to be attached to the crown till three centuries later. The marshy district of Aigues Mortes was alone available; it was under the abbey of Psalmodi, planted amidst the swamps on a little sandy elevation. Louis IX. entered into negotiations with the abbot, and in exchange for certain royal domains near Sommiere, he was enabled to acquire the town of Aigues Mortes and all the zone of lagoons between it and the sea.

At that time there existed but a single fortification—the tower of Matafera—erected about five centuries before as a place of refuge from the Saracens. S. Louis restored this tower, or rather rebuilt it, in the form in which it remains to this day. Then he constructed a quay, and scooped out a canal through the lagoons to the sea. This is the old canal, now full of sand, and up this vessels were able to proceed through two lagoons to the tower of Matafera, which acquired later the name of Tour de Constance. But the old canal had an ephemeral existence; every inundation of the lagoons of the Rhone altered their depths, and disturbed the canal. A century or two later another canal was cut between the old one and that now in use, that also was destined in time to be choked up; but the old discharging and lading place of the vessels can still be distinguished by the heaps of ballast thrown out, consisting of stones from Genoa and Corsica. It is quite a mistake to suppose that Aigues Mortes was on the sea in the thirteenth century. The Crusaders embarked in the canal cut by S. Louis, and sailed through the lagoons before they reached the open Mediterranean.

The most ancient maps show us Aigues Mortes bathed by one of those branches of the Rhone, now deserted, which go by the name of Rhones-morts. At a time before history—at all events the history of Gaul begins, the Rhone had its principal mouth in the great Etang de Maugio; but it choked up its mouth there, and advanced eastward in several stages, leaving in its rear, as the river thus shifted its quarters, a series of dwindling and then dead channels.

What is now the Petit Rhone, reaching the sea at Les Saintes Maries, was then the main stream, which has long ago turned away, and now discharges its greatest body of water into the Mediterranean at Saint Louis. It has left behind it, not only the dead or stagnant Rhones, its neglected beds, but also, as already noticed, its old bars, and these are very distinctly marked at Aigues Mortes. The first chain gives us the primitive beach, which began at the lagoon of Maugio, traversed the entire Camargue, and can be traced to Fos. It is formed of an almost uninterrupted succession of sandhills crowned with a tolerably rich vegetation; on it grow the white poplar, the aleppo and the umbrella pines. To the south of this lay the prehistoric sea; the ground is horizontal, and although subjected to culture shows sufficient evidence that it was at one time sea-bed, covered with more recent alluvium. Here is the great lagoon of Loyran, which, before many years are passed, will be completely drained, and its bed turned up by the plough.

Still advancing seaward, we reach a second littoral chain, not so distinctly marked as the first, but nevertheless distinguishable by its low line of sandy dunes, on which a scanty growth of tamarisks and coarse grass is sustained. Then we come to a succession of lagoons, once united into one, and after them the third bar, presenting exactly the same features—a low range of sand and pebbles, and beyond it once more lagoons, cut off from the waves of the Mediterranean by a fourth and last chain, the most recent, that belongs to the historic epoch.

But that is not all: the wash of the sea, its current settling west, and carrying with it the mud of the Rhone is gradually, but surely building up a fifth bar or bank, which will in time close the gulf from the point of Espignette to the bathing-place of Palavas, when the Gulf of Aigues Mortes will be converted into a second Etang de Berre.

Aigues Mortes is surrounded by its mediaeval fortifications just as they were left by Philip the Bold, son of S. Louis. The plan of the town is almost quadrilateral, it has six gates and fifteen towers. Only one angle of the parallelogram is cut off, where stands the stately circular tower of Constance. The streets are laid out in the most precise manner, cutting each other at right angles; there are four churches, of which the principal is Notre Dame des Sablons. The others were all formerly attached to monasteries or convents.

The plan of the fortification is precisely that adopted by the Crusaders wherever they built defences, in Syria, in Cyprus, in Palestine. The walls are crenellated, usually without machicolations, pierced with long slots, and with square holes through which beams were thrust, supporting wooden balconies which commanded the bases of the walls, and enabled the besieged to protect themselves against the efforts made by the assailants to sap the bases of the ramparts, or to escalade the walls. Towers, round and square at intervals, strengthened the walls, and formed points of vantage and of assembly for the besieged. Precisely similar fortifications were raised about the same period at Tortosa, Antioch, Ascalon, Caesarea, &c.; but all these have been destroyed, only Aigues Mortes remains, an unique and perfect example of the systematic fortification adopted by the Crusaders everywhere.

The reader, probably, has not given a thought to the original purpose of a battlement, so common on towers and churches and castles. I therefore venture to show what it was originally. It was a wall broken through with doorways into the wooden gallery that overhung, and through which the assailants could be kept from approaching too near to the base of the walls. But, after a time, these wooden galleries were found to be inconvenient. Means were taken by the besiegers to set them on fire. Consequently they were abandoned, and their places were taken by projecting galleries of stone, supported, not on wooden beams, but on stone corbels, and it is this second stage in fortification which is called machicolation. The battlements were retained, but were no longer roofed over. Consequently it is possible to tell approximately the epoch of a Mediaeval fortification, by a look at the battlements, whether they stand back flush with the walls, and have the beam-holes, or whether they stand forward, bracketed out from the walls.

Aigues Mortes is a dead town. About a third of the area within the walls is devoted to gardens, or is waste. The population, which in the thirteenth century numbered 15,000 souls, has shrunk to a little over 3,000, a number at which it remains stationary. It does a little sleepy trade in salt, and sees the barges for Beaucaire pass its walls, and perhaps supplies the boatmen with wine and bread. The neighbourhood is desolate. The soil is so full of salt that it is impatient of tillage, and produces only such herbs as love the sea border. But its lagoons are alive with wild fowl, rose-coloured flamingoes, white gulls, and green metallic-throated ducks.

And now for Maguelonne. I said that Aigues Mortes was a dead town, but Maguelonne was the ghost of one. The best way to reach this latter very singular spot is to take the train from Montpellier to Villeneuve de Maguelonne, and walk thence to the border of the Etang. There one is pretty sure to find fishermen—they catch little else than eels—who will row one across to the narrow strip of land that intervenes between the lagoon and the sea. The littoral chain here is not of sand and gravel only, for a mass of volcanic tufa rises to the surface, and originally formed an islet in the sea, then, when the process began of forming a littoral belt with a lagoon behind it, the sands clung to this islet and spread out from it to left and right.

On this volcanic islet stood first a Greek and then a Roman city, but of its history nothing is known till the sixth century, when it was attacked from the sea by Wamba, King of the Visigoths. It had been an episcopal city for a century before. After the Visigoths came the Saracens, who gave the place their name, and the harbour of Maguelonne was called Port Sarasin. In 737, Charles Martel, in order to clear the pirates completely out of their stronghold, destroyed the city to its last foundation, with the sole exception of the old church of S. Peter. The bishop took up his abode on the mainland at Villeneuve, and the seat of the bishopric was moved to Castelnau near Montpellier. For three centuries the islet was abandoned and left a heap of ruins. But it was restored in the eleventh century. The walls were again set up, and flanked with towers, and a causeway consisting of a chain of wooden bridges was carried across the lagoon to Villeneuve. The entrance to the port was closed lest it should invite Saracen pirates, and another opened under the walls of the town which could be rendered impassable by a chain at the first sign of danger. The newly-built town speedily showed vigour, became populous, and the harbour was filled with the merchandise of the Mediterranean. Two popes visited the city, Gelasius II. in 1118, and Alexander III. in 1162. In addition to the Cathedral of S. Peter, other churches were raised, dedicated to S. Augustine and S. Pancras. A castle with keep was erected.

For several centuries Maguelonne was a sort of ecclesiastical republic, in which the bishop exercised the office of president. It became very rich and luxurious. The bishop, not too scrupulous, forged imitation Saracen coins, and was called to order for doing this by Clement IV. in 1266. It seemed to the sovereign pontiff a scandal, not that the bishop should forge the coins, but that he should forge them with the name of Mahomet on them as "Prophet of God." In 1331 statutes for the monastery on Maguelonne were drawn up, which proved that the discipline kept therein left much to be desired; and a monastic treatise on cooking that came thence shows that the monks and canons were consummate epicures.

Maguelonne was ruined first by Charles Martel. It was again, and finally ruined, by Louis XIII. The castle, the walls, the towers, the monastic buildings—everything was levelled to the dust, with the sole exception of the cathedral church. The stones of the dismantled buildings encumbered the ground till 1708, when they were all carried off for the construction of the new canal which runs along the coast through the chain of lagoons from Cette to Aigues Mortes.

"A church and its archives," says the historian of Maguelonne, "that is all that the revolution of fate has respected of one of the principal monastic centres in the south. A church in which service is no longer said, and archives that are incomplete. Even the very cemetery of Maguelonne has vanished, as though Death had feared to encounter himself in this desert, where naught remained save the skeleton of a cathedral. Yet what dust is here! Phoenician, Greek, Celtic, Roman, Christian, Mahomedan, French: A few tombs escaped the observation of the stone collectors of 1708, and even fewer inscriptions, excepting such as are found within the church, that is all! What a realization is this of the sentence on all things human, Pulvis es." [1]

[Footnote 1: Germain: "Maguelonne et ses Eveques," 1859.]

The islet of Maguelonne is but one knot in the long thread of cordon littoral that reaches from Cette to Aigues Mortes, and it can be reached on foot by land from Palavas, but the simplest and shortest route is by boat in half an hour over the shallow mere, nowhere over three feet six inches deep. The boats of the fishermen are all flat-bottomed, and the men have to row gingerly, lest their oars strike the bottom, or else they punt along. One can see as one crosses, the points of rest of the old causeway. The church, like that of Les Trois Maries, is feudal castle as much as cathedral, calculated, on occasion, to give refuge within to the inhabitants of the town, whilst the garrison stood on the flat roof and showered arrows, stones, molten sulphur and pitch upon the besiegers. The whole of this coast was liable to the descent of Moorish and Saracen pirates, consequently the same type of church prevails all along it. The western tower is ruinous, but the remainder of the church is in tolerable condition. It is cruciform, with an apse, as but very narrow windows, high up and few. The roof is slabbed with stone, so as to form a terrace on which the besieged could walk, and whence they could launch their weapons through the slots and between the battlements. At the south-west end of the church is a curious entrance door of the twelfth century, with a relieving arch of coloured marbles over it, and the apostles Peter and Paul rudely sculptured as supporters of the arch. They occupy a crouching position, and are sculptured on triangular blocks. In the tympanum is the Saviour seated in glory. But what in addition to its quaintness of design gives peculiar interest to this doorway is the inscription it bears:—


Let those who will come thirsting to the gate of Life. On entering these doors compose your manners. Entering here pray, and ever bewail your crimes. All sin is washed away in the spring of tears. Bernard de Trevies made this, A.D. 1178.

Now Bernard of the Three-Ways is a man who did something else—he was a novelist and a poet. A Canon of Maguelonne, gentle and pure of heart, he wrote the story of 'Pierre de Provence et la belle Maguelone,' a charming monument of the old Languedoc tongue worthy to range alongside with 'Aucassin et Nicolette.' It has been translated into most European languages, Greek not excepted, and has become a favourite chapbook tale. It is still read in all cottages of France, sold at all fairs, but sadly mutilated at each re-edition, and in its chapbook form reduced to a few pages, which is but a wretched fragment of a very delightful whole. No idea of its beauty can be obtained without reference to the old editions, where it occupies a goodly volume.

The story of Pierre de Provence is not one of extraordinary originality, but its charm lies in its general tone, healthy, pure, gentle, full of the freshness of chivalry in its first institution, and of religion in its simplicity. We probably have not got the poetic romance quite in its original form as it left the hands of Bernard, for Petrarch, whilst a student at Montpellier, was struck with it, and added some polishing touches, and it is the version thus improved by his master-hand that is believed to have come down to us. I shrink from still further condensing a story spoiled already by condensation, and yet do not like altogether to pass it over without giving the reader some idea of it.

The story tells of a Peter, son of the Count of Melgueil, who, hearing that the King of Naples had a daughter of surpassing loveliness, determined to ride and see her. He had himself accoutred in armour, with silver keys on his helm, and on his shield; and when he reached Naples jousted in tournament before the fair princess, whose name was Maguelone, and loved her well, and she him. But, alas! the king had promised to give her to the Prince of Carpona in marriage, and as she felt she could not live without her Pierre, and Peter was quite sure he could not live without her, they eloped together. When the sun waxed burning hot she became very weary, and he led her beneath a tree, and she laid her head on his knee and fell asleep. Then he saw how she had in her bosom a little silken bag, and he lightly drew it forth and peered within to see what it contained. Then, lo! he found three rings that he had sent her by her nurse. Afraid of waking her, by replacing the bag, he laid it beside him on a stone, when down swooped a raven and carried it off. Peter at once folded his mantle, put it under the head of the sleeping girl, and ran after the bird, which flew to the sea and perched on a rock above it. Peter threw a stone at the raven and made it drop the bag into the water. Then he got a boat, moored hard by, jumped into the boat and went after the floating bag with the rings. But wind and waves rose and brushed him out to sea, and carried him across the Mediterranean to Alexandria, where the Sultan made him his page. In the meantime the fair Maguelone awoke in the green wood, and finding herself alone, ran about calling "Pierre! Pierre!" but received no answer. She spent the night in the forest, and then took the road to Rome, and encountering a female pilgrim, exchanged clothes with her. Maguelone pursued her journey, prayed in S. Peter's Church at Rome, unnoticed by her uncle, who, with great state, passed by her kneeling there, and threw her alms. Then she went on to Genoa, where she took boat to Aigues Mortes. Hearing at this place that there was a little island off the coast suitable for a hermitage, thither she went, and with her jewels she had brought from Naples built a little church and a hospital, in which she ministered to sick people. The Countess of Melgueil, hearing of the holy woman, came to visit her, and won by her sympathy, with many tears told her how she had lost her dear son Peter, who had gone to Naples, and had not been heard of since.

One day, a fisherman caught a tunny, and brought it as a present to the count. When the tunny was opened, in its stomach was found a little bag that contained three rings. Now, no sooner did the countess see these than she knew they were her own, which she had given to Pierre, and she hasted to tell the anchorite on the isle of the wondrous discovery, and to show her the rings. It need hardly be told that Maguelone also recognised them.

Now the Sultan of Alexandria had become so attached to Peter, that he treated him as his own son, and finally, at Peter's entreaty, allowed him to return to Provence, having first extracted from him a promise to come back to him. Peter carried with him a great treasure in fourteen barrels, but to hide their contents he filled up the tops with salt. Then he engaged with a captain of a trader to convey him across to Provence. Now one day the vessel stayed for water at a little isle, called Sagona, and Peter went on shore, and the sun being hot, lay down on the grass and fell asleep. A wind sprang up. The sails were spread. The captain called Peter. The men ran everywhere searching for him, could not find him, and at length were reluctantly obliged to sail without him. On reaching Provence the captain was unwilling to retain the goods of the lost man, and so gave them to the holy woman who ministered to the sick in the hospital she had built on a tiny islet off the coast. One day when Maguelone was short of salt she went to fetch some from the barrels given her by the ship's captain, and to her amazement found under the salt an incalculable treasure. With this she set to work to rebuild the church and her hospital.

In the meantime, Peter awoke, and found himself deserted. For some time he remained in the island, but from want of food and discouragement fell ill, and would have died had not some fishermen, chancing to come there, taken him into their boat. They consulted what to do with the sick man, and one said that they had best take him to Maguelone. On hearing the name Peter asked what they meant. They told him that this was the name given to a church and hospital richly built and tended to by a holy woman, on the coast of Provence. Peter then entreated them to carry him to the place that bore so fair a name. So he was conveyed, sick and feeble, into the hostel; but he was so changed with sickness that Maguelone did not recognise him, and as she wore a veil he could not see her face.

Now Maguelone, whenever she went by his bed heard him sigh, so she stood still one day, spoke gently to him, and asked what was his trouble. Then he told her all his story, and how sad his heart was for his dear Maguelone, whom he had lost, and might never see again. She now knew him, and with effort constrained her voice to bid him pray to God, with whom all things are possible. And when she heard him raise his voice in prayer with many sobs, she could not contain herself, but ran off to the church, and kneeling before the altar gave way also to tears, but tears of joy mingled with psalms of thanksgiving. Then she arose, and brought forth her royal robes, and cast aside those of an anchorite, and bade that Pierre should be given a bath and be clothed in princely garb. After which he was introduced into her presence. Of the joy of the recognition, of the restoration of the lost son to his parents, of the happy wedding, no need that I should tell. The church and hostel of Maguelone remained ever after as testimony to the virtues and piety of La Belle Maguelone, its foundress.

Such is the merest and baldest sketch of this graceful tale, told by the very man who cut the inscription I copied from the door of the church, in which he served as canon. When Vernon Lee says of Provencal poetry that adultery—rank adultery was what it lauded, we must not forget that there is another side to be considered—and that the Provencal poets turned their pens as well to drawing pure and artless love.

The land and the old church are now the property of a private gentleman, a M. Fabre, who has a great love for the place. I remember the church, when I was a child, full of hay and faggots. It is now restored to sacred uses, but Mass is only said therein once in the year. The proprietor has built a farmhouse near it, and has moved his children's bodies to the old cathedral, and purposes to be laid there himself, when his hour strikes—surrounded by waters: the sea on one side, the great mere of Maguelonne on the other.



Position of Beziers—S. Nazaire—The Albigenses—Their tenets—Albigensian "consolation"—Crusade against them—The storming of Beziers—Massacre—Cathedral of Beziers—Girls' faces in the train—Similar faces at Narbonne, in Cathedral and Museum—Narbonne a Roman colony—All the Roman buildings destroyed—Caps of liberty—Christian sarcophagi—Children's toys of baked clay—Cathedral unfinished—Archiepiscopal Palace—Unsatisfactory work of M. Viollet-le-Duc—In trouble with the police—Taken for a German spy—My sketch-book gets me off.

The position of Beziers is striking. It crowns a height above the Orb, its grand fortified church of S. Nazaire occupying the highest point, where it stands on a platform. This fine church is not the cathedral. In La Madeleine is the bishop's throne, a church that, with the exception of the tower and exterior of the apse, has been modernised out of all interest. But S. Nazaire is a stately and beautiful church of the twelfth to the fourteenth century, in the style of the country, very little ornamented externally, and very strongly fortified; even the windows being made impenetrable by their strong grilles of iron. There are two western towers, small, with an arch thrown between their battlements, over the rose window, and this battlemented archway is in fact a screen behind which the besieged sheltered whilst they poured down molten pitch on those who assailed the gateway of the cathedral. For this purpose there is an open space between the screen and the facade. The apse of eight sides, internally is fine; and there is a beautiful octagonal apsidal chapel on the north side, entered from the transept.

Beziers is the scene of a horrible slaughter in 1209, after the siege by the Crusaders under Simon de Montfort. It had been a headquarter of the Albigenses. As we are now entering the region reddened with the blood of these heretics, it will not be improper here to give a little account of them.

The Albigenses are often erroneously confused with the Waldenses, with whom really they had little in common. Actually, the Albigenses were not Christians at all, but Manicheans. The heresy was nothing other than the reawakening of the dormant and suppressed Paganism of the south of France. There are plenty of documents which enable us to understand their peculiar tenets and practices.

They held a dualism of good and evil principles in the world, equally matched; and they taught that the evil principle was the origin of all created matter. Accordingly they rejected the Old Testament, and declared that all the world and man's body were of diabolic origin, and that the spirit only was divine. With regard to the person of Christ they were divided in opinion. Some said He had a phantom body, and that He seemed only to die on the cross. The real Christ was incapable of suffering. But another school among them declared that He had a true body born of Mary and Joseph, and that this was due to the evil principle, and that this body did hang on the cross. It was the Evil God of the Jews who slew Pharaoh in the Red Sea. They held that the Good God had two wives, Colla and Coliba, from whom he had many generations of spiritual beings. Of the Good Christ, the spiritual, they asserted, that He neither ate nor drank, that He was the source of all mercy and salvation, but that the Bad Christ was the carnal one following the Good Christ as the shadow follows the body; that this Bad Christ had Magdalen as his concubine. They were not agreed as to the future of man. Some denied the existence of souls, some said that the souls were fallen angels inhabiting men's bodies, others that the soul was pure and could only attain to blessedness by emancipation from the body, all the works of which were evil.

The faithful of the Albigenses were divided into two orders, the "perfect," who wore a black dress, abstained from flesh, eggs, cheese, and from marriage; and the "believers" whose salvation was to be attained by a certain ceremony called the "consolation." This sacrament of consolation was performed by one of the perfect laying his hands on the believer; and after consolation, the newly-consoled must starve himself to death. A great number of trials of Albigenses have been collected by Limborch in his history of the Inquisition. One only can we now give. It is that of a woman who had herself consoled, and sending for a surgeon, ordered him to open her veins in a bath, that so, the blood running out more freely, she might sooner die. Also she bought poison, as the bleeding did not succeed, and procured a cobbler's awl wherewith to pierce her heart, but as the women with her were undecided whether the heart were on the right side or the left, she took the poison, and so died. [1]

[Footnote 1: We have got the Acts of the Inquisition at Toulouse during sixteen years, between 1307-1323. The whole number of cases reported is 932. The usual sentence on one found guilty—unless guilty of causing death by "consolation"—was to wear a tongue of red cloth on the garments. Of such there are 174 sentences. If a case of relapse, there was sentence of brief imprisonment, 218 cases; 38 were reported as having run away; 40 were condemned to death for having caused the death of dupes by "consolation;" 113 were let off penances previously imposed; 139 were discharged from prison, and 90 sentences were pronounced against persons already dead. See Maitland's Tracts and Documents on the Albigenses, 1831.]

We can understand what alarm this great heathen reaction in Provence and Aquitaine awoke in France, and in the minds of the popes.

Innocent III. at first employed against the Albigenses only spiritual and legitimate weapons; before proscribing he tried to convert them, but when they murdered his emissary, Peter de Castelnau, in 1208, he proclaimed a Holy War against them. It was a war undertaken on the plea of a personal crime, but in reality for the dispossession of the native princes who were believed to be in favour of the heresy. "The crusade against the Albigensians," says M. Guizot, "was the most striking application of two principles equally false and fatal, which did as much evil to the Catholics as to the heretics; and these are the right of the spiritual power to coerce souls by the material force of the temporal power, and the right to strip princes of their title to the obedience of their subjects—in other words, denial of religious liberty to consciences, and of political independence to states."

In 1208 Innocent summoned the King of France to sweep from southern France these heretics, "worse than the Saracens," and he promised to the leaders of the crusade the domains they won of the princes who favoured the heresy. The war lasted fifteen years (from 1208 to 1223) and of the two leading spirits, one ordering and the other executing, Pope Innocent III. and Simon de Montfort, neither saw the end of it. During the fifteen years of this religious war, nearly all the towns and strong castles in the regions between the Rhone, the Pyrenees, the Garonne were taken, lost, retaken, given over to pillage, sack, and massacre, and burnt by the Crusaders with all the cruelty of fanatics and all the greed of conquerors. In the account of the war by a Provencal poet, we are told that God never made the clerk who could have written the muster-roll of the crusading army in two or even three months. One of the first victims was the young and gallant Viscount of Beziers, who, the same author assures us, was a good Catholic, but whose lands and towns the rapacious horde lusted to acquire. When they sat down before Beziers, then the Catholics within the walls made common cause with the heretics, and refused to surrender.

Then the city was stormed, the walls scrambled up by a rabble rout of camp-followers, in shirts and breeches, but without shoes, who burst over the parapets whilst the envoys of the town were being amused by mock conferences with Montfort and the other leaders of the crusading host. A general massacre ensued; neither age nor sex were spared, even priests fell. It is said that news of what was being done was brought to Arnauld, Abbot of Citeaux, one of the commanders of the crusade, and he was told that faithful and heretics were being slaughtered alike. "Slay them all," said he, "God will know His own."

The story is told by a contemporary, but only as an on-dit, and may therefore be quite untrue. But Simon de Montfort, the hero of the crusade, employed like language. One day two heretics, taken at Castres, were brought before him, one of whom was unshakable in his belief, the other expressed himself open to conviction. "Burn them both," said the count; "if this fellow mean what he says, the fire will expiate his sins; and, if he lie, he will suffer for his imposture."

An attempt has been made to exculpate the leaders of the crusade from the atrocities committed at the capture of Beziers, and to clear them of the charge of treachery. It is so far certain that the town was captured and the massacre begun by the camp-followers, but the Crusaders soon joined in and accomplished the work begun by the "ribauds;" and no attempt was made by the leaders to stay the carnage. In the cathedral church of S. Madeleine some seven thousand who had taken refuge there were butchered without regard to the sanctity of the spot. The city was then set on fire and the cathedral perished in the flames.

After all, it was well that the cathedral should be purged with fire, and rebuilt. One could not pray, one would not like to see the service of God rendered in a building that had been thus bespattered with blood. S. Nazaire is later. It was almost wholly rebuilt in the fourteenth century, and within it one can forget the horrors of that hateful siege and butchery.

As I travelled on to Narbonne, there entered the carriage in which I was two girls with remarkable profiles, and I wondered whether they bore the features of the Ligurian race that first peopled all this coast, now probably represented by the Basques—a race akin to the Lap. These girls had fine dark eyes and hair, sallow complexions, and their full faces were not unpleasant, but their profiles were certainly most remarkable. Now curiously enough, on entering the cathedral at Narbonne, I saw a tomb of the eighteenth century with mourners represented on it—some six to eight, and they had all the same type of face. Not only so, but in the museum of the town is a Classic bust, found among the remains of Roman Narbona, and the same type is there.

Narbonne was once a great capital. It stood on a lagoon, and did a large trade in the Mediterranean. It was a Roman colony, founded at the same time as Arles, and had its forum, capitol, baths, amphitheatre, theatre, and temples. But, alas! the necessity for fortifying the city in the Middle Ages induced the inhabitants to go to these Roman buildings and pull them to pieces in order with them to construct the walls and towers surrounding the town, and now not one of all these monuments remains. The walls have served, however, as a rich quarry of antiquities that have supplied the two great collections in the town, one in the Hotel de Ville, the other in a ruined church. These collections are only second to the Avignon museum, and abound with objects of interest.

Among the monumental stones for the dead are several with caps figured on them. The like are to be seen at Nimes, Avignon, and elsewhere. These are freedmen's caps. When a noble Roman died he left in his will that so many of his slaves were to be given their liberty, and then this was represented by caps sculptured on his tombstone.

Thus it happened that the cap came to be regarded as the symbol of liberty. The museum contains a Christian sarcophagus on the staircase, with an orante, a woman praying with uplifted hands in the midst, on the sides the striking of the rock and the multiplication of the loaves. On the lid is the portrait of the lady who was buried in it, with hair dressed in the fashion worn by the Julias of the Heliogabalus and Alexander Severus epoch, with whose busts one becomes so familiar at Rome, 218-223—a fashion that never came in again, that I am aware of. Another Christian sarcophagus has on it the multiplication of loaves, the denial of Peter, and a representation of Christ unbearded, which is the earliest form. Another, again, represents him unbearded holding a scroll, on the right St. Peter and two other apostles holding rolls, and three apostles on the left; on the lid is an orante.

In this museum may be seen one or two examples of bronze Gaulish sun-wheels with four and eight spokes; and, what is to me very touching, a number of children's toys made in clay, found in children's tombs—cocks and hens, pigs and horses, very rude. Similar toys are to be found in the Arles and the Avignon museums. I remember in the catacomb of S. Agnes at Rome is a whole collection of toys found in a Christian grave there, ivory dolls, a rattle, bells, and an earthenware money-box, just such as may be bought for a sou now in a foreign fair. De Rossi, the curator of the catacombs, has had them all put together under glass in proximity to the little grave where they were found. In a child's grave at S. Sebastian was found a little terra-cotta horse dappled with yellow spots. I suppose parents could not bear to see the toys of their darlings about the house, and so enclosed them with their dear ones in the last home. I remember a modern French grave, near La Rochelle; in the centre of the head-cross was a glass case, with a doll dinner-service enclosed, that had been a favourite toy with the poor little mite lying under the cross. So human hearts are the same as centuries roll by and religions alter.

The cathedral of Narbonne is very delightful, after a course of castellated fortress-churches of early date. It is of the fourteenth century, light, lantern-like, with glorious flying buttresses.

The church is unfinished, it has no nave, only the lovely soaring choir, standing alone, like that of Beauvais; and as was that of Cologne till the last thirty years. Unfortunately this choir is so built round with houses that it is only in one place at the east end that it can be seen, and just there, out of delightful play of fancy, the architect has thrown a bow across from one flying buttress to another high up, and through this stone rainbow one sees the pinnacles and the sweeping arches of the buttresses crossing each other at every angle.

The archiepiscopal palace was a fortress, with two strong towers. M. Viollet-le-Duc was invited by the town to take them in hand and construct between them a facade in keeping with their architecture, which was to be thenceforth the facade of the Hotel de Ville. There was not a man in France who had a more intimate knowledge of Gothic architecture than he; but, unfortunately, like Rickman in England and Heideloff in Germany, he was incapable of applying his knowledge. The consequence is that he has produced a facade which is disfiguring to the two grand towers between which it is planted. Viollet-le-Duc was delighted with the grand effect of the face of the papal palace at Avignon, where the buttresses run up unstaged and then are united by bold arches that sustain the parapet and battlements, so he attempted the same thing at Narbonne on a smaller scale. Now these buttresses or piers at Avignon are 5 ft. 1 in. by 2 ft. 9 in., whereas the measurements of M. le-Duc's little props are reduced to 1 ft. 2 in. by 1 ft. 6 in. Relative proportions are changed as well as sadly reduced. The result is that they are ludicrous. Moreover, instead of sinking his facade modestly—a little, eighteen inches would have been enough—he has carried the face of his niggling little buttresses flush with the massive walls of the great towers. I wished I could have had M. Viollet-le-Duc there by both his ears and knocked his head against the abomination he has created. He had a splendid opportunity, and through incapacity he lost it.

I got into trouble at Narbonne.

As I was walking on the platform of the station, a man in plain clothes with very blue eyes came to me, touched his hat, and asked if he might be honoured with a few words privately. I at once suspected he was going to beg or borrow money, and said I was willing to hear what he wanted to say on the spot. He smiled, and said that he thought perhaps it would be better that we had our conversation elsewhere, outside the station. After a little hesitation, I complied, and when we were by ourselves, "Monsieur," said he, "I must request you to show me your papers and allow me to identify you. I am in search of some one uncommonly like yourself. I am—the chef of the secret police down here. Will you come to my office, and bring your luggage?"

"Certainly, delighted to make your acquaintance. I will get my Gladstone bag, and my roll of rugs in a moment. There is a—a hurdy-gurdy—" "I know there is," said the chef sternly. "It is that vielle that is suspicious."

So all my luggage was conveyed to the office of the police. I showed no concern, but laughed and joked.

"What countryman do you say you are?"


"Impossible. You have not the English accent when you speak. It is rather German than anything else."

"You think I am a German?"

"But certainly. Your bag has a German address on it, written in German characters." So it had. I had been in Germany before going to Rome, and had never removed the address, which, as he said, was in German characters. I explained, but the chef was unsatisfied. I became now convinced that he thought I was a spy.

"Here are German newspapers and a German book in your bag!" said the chef.

"Certainly. Why not? I have been in Germany."

"Yet you say you are English?"

"Here is my passport." I extended one to him. He looked at it, shook his head, and said: "It is a very old one of 1867." That was true, and I had not had it vised since.

"Then," said the chef, "this passport is for you and your wife. Where is the wife?"

"Minding the babies. Thirteen of them—a handful," said I.

I had to produce card-case, letters, all of which the chef examined carefully, and yet he was not satisfied. Then, suddenly, a bright idea struck me.

"Monsieur!" said I, "I see what you take me to be. It is true I have been sketching in Narbonne, and along the whole coast. Would you like to see my drawings? Here is the result of my studies in Narbonne: the very remarkable profile of a Narbonnaise girl, the face of a lady carved in the cathedral, of another in the museum, some sketches of children's clay toys found in Roman tombs, and sundry Gaulish and Merovingian bronzes; also! yes, see, a bone toothcomb discovered among the remains of the fortifications."

The chef laughed, especially over the beauties of Narbonne, ran his eye through the book, took it over to his assistant to look at and laugh over the wonderful girls' faces, returned it to me, and let me off.

"And the vielle," said I, "what do you think of that—"

"Mais! with the vielle over your shoulder, and that book of sketches and thirteen babies—assurement—you could only be an Englishman."



Siege of Carcassonne by the Crusaders—Capture—Perfidy of legate—Death of the Viscount—Continuation of the war—Churches of New Carcassonne—La Cite—A perfect Mediaeval fortified town—Disappointing—Visigoth fortifications—Later additions—The Cathedral—Tomb of Simon de Montfort.

The Viscount of Beziers was not in the city from which he took his title when it fell. He had hurried on to Carcassonne to prepare that for defence. There he exerted himself with the utmost energy, with rage and despair, to be ready against the bloodthirsty, and yet blood-drunken ruffians who were pouring along the road from smoking Beziers, to do to Carcassonne as they had done there. Pedro, king of Aragon, interfered; he appeared as mediator in the camp of the Crusaders. Carcassonne was held as a fief under him as lord paramount. He pleaded the youth of the viscount, asserted his fidelity to the Church, his abhorrence of the Albigensian heresy; it was no fault of his, he argued, that his subjects had lapsed into error, and he declared that the Viscount had authorised him to place his submission in the hands of the legate of Pope Innocent. But the Crusaders were snorting for plunder and murder. The only terms they would admit were that the young viscount might retire with twelve knights; the city must surrender at discretion. The proud and gallant youth declared that he had rather be flayed alive than desert the least of his subjects. The first assaults, though on one occasion led by the prelates chanting the 'Veni Creator' ended in failure.

Carcassonne might have resisted successfully had it been properly provisioned, or had the viscount limited the number admitted within its walls. But multitudes of refugees had come there from all the country round. The wells failed. Disease broke out. The viscount was obliged to come to terms, to accept a free conduct from the officer of the legate, and he endeavoured to make terms for his subjects.

Most of the troops made their escape by subterranean passages, and the defenceless city came into the power of the Crusaders. The citizens were stripped almost naked, and their houses given up to pillage, but their lives were spared, with the exception of some fifty who were hanged and four hundred who were burned alive. The viscount had given himself up on promise of safe conduct; but no promises, no oaths were held sacred in these wars of religion, and the perfidious legate seized him, cast him into a dungeon, and there he died a few months later of a broken spirit and the pestilential prison air.

The law of conquest was now to be put in force. The lands of the heretic the Pope was ready to bestow on such as had dutifully done his behest. The legate assembled the principal crusading nobles, that they might choose among them one to act as lord over their conquests. The offer was made, successively, to the Duke of Burgundy, the Count of Nevers, and the Count of S. Pol; but they all three declined, saying scornfully that they had lands enough of their own without taking those of another. They were, perhaps, fearful of the perilous example of setting up the fiefs of France to the hazard of the sword. Simon de Montfort was less scrupulous, or more ambitious, and he took immediate possession of the lands that had been acquired. The Pope wrote to him and confirmed him in the hereditary possession of his new dominions, at the same time expressing to him a hope that, in concert with the legates, he would continue very zealous in the extirpation of the heretics.

From this time forth the war in southern France changed character, or, rather, it assumed a double character; with the war of religion was openly joined a war of conquest; it was no longer merely against the Albigenses and their heresies, it was against the native princes of the south of France, for the sake of their dominions, that the crusade was prosecuted.

If it came within my scope to speak about Toulouse, I should be constrained to tell more of this sanguinary story. I am thankful that I need not prosecute the hateful tale; but so much it was not possible for me to withhold from the reader, as it is with these memories that Carcassonne and Beziers must be visited and looked at.

Carcassonne is a double city, a city on a hill and another on the plain, each ancient, but that below with the modern element leavening it, that above wholly steeped in mediaevalism.

In the lower town are two fine churches, very peculiar in design, forming vast halls without pillars, and with small chancels and apses. There can be no question that they look uncomfortable without pillars, that the choir does not grow out of the church naturally, and is devoid of dignity. These two churches are S. Vincent and S. Michael. The latter is of the thirteenth century, and seems to have formed the pattern upon which the other was built in the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. There is no west portal, but it has a fine rose window. The church is entered by a small door on the north. The other and later church, S. Vincent, has a very fine tower, which has, unfortunately, not been completed. It also has no west door, and is entered by a small portal at the side. These churches have their lateral chapels arranged like those in the cathedral at Munich between the buttresses, and the church is lighted by windows above them. Such buildings make admirable preaching-halls, but as churches are not pleasing internally.

To the east of New Carcassonne flows the river Aude crossed by a bridge, with a quaint little chapel recently restored beside it. From this bridge a view of Old Carcassonne, La Cite, as it is called, bursts on the sight. It stands on a height about 125 ft. above the river, and this height has two peaks, one is occupied by the citadel, the other by the old cathedral of S. Nazaire.

The whole of this Cite is surrounded by its walls and towers, quite as perfect as when originally built, for they have been very carefully restored by M. Viollet-le-Duc. Consequently we have before us a French fortified town of the Middle Ages come down to us unaltered. That it is picturesque is unquestionable, that it is eminently picturesque cannot be allowed. The builders had no concern for making a beautiful picture, they thought only of making an impregnable place. It is precisely this that differentiates it from a score of German fortified towns. The burghers of these latter were resolved to make their towns miracles of beauty as well as strong places. Consequently they varied the shapes of their towers, they capped them quaintly, hardly making two alike. Here, at Carcassonne, every tower, or nearly every tower, resembles its fellow, and all have sugar-loaf caps that irritate the eye with iteration of the same form. The citadel has no character of massiveness, no grand donjon to distinguish it from the rest of the fortifications, and the cathedral has only two mean little donkey's ears of towers that are most ineffective, peeping over the walls of the south-western angle of the town. In looking out for a study for a picture one has to get where some of the sugar-loaf towers are eclipsed, and there is only one point in the whole circumference where a really satisfactory grouping is obtainable, and that is at the angle outside immediately below the cathedral platform to the west, where the one respectable turret of the castle stands up boldly from the rock, and the flanking turrets overlap and hide each other.

Interesting, most interesting is Old Carcassonne, and picturesque in its fashion; the regret one feels is that, with its opportunities, it is not more so. I do not think that M. Viollet-le-Duc's restoration is in fault, but that the original architects had no idea of anything better, were men of mediocre abilities, or cared only to make the defences strong at all costs, and to sacrifice everything else to this one consideration.

But the same fault is inherent in all French castle-building and city-fortification of the Middle Ages. It is picturesque when in ruins. On the other hand, the German castles and fortified towns look their very best when in perfect repair. Let the reader take up Albert Duerer's delightful little engraving of the Hermit, and compare the background of a German walled town and castle on a height with La Cite, Carcassonne, and he will see how vast is the difference in quality of picturesqueness between the two.

The Cite is actually enclosed within double ramparts, and a portion of these dates from the time of the Visigoths. Their walls were composed of cubic blocks of stone, with alternate layers of brick, were double-faced, and filled in with rubble bedded in lime, forming a sort of concrete core. The towers were round outside with flat face to the town, and large round-headed windows which were closed with boards. These in later times were built up. The interior walls and towers are the earliest, and were those besieged by the Crusaders. It was in one of the towers of the castle that the unhappy young viscount died. The outer fortifications were erected by Louis IX. and his son, Philip the Bold. The Visigoth walls were defended by thirty-two towers, of which only one was square. Louis IX. constructed a great barbican below the castle, commanding the bridge over the Aude, but that was destroyed some years ago.

The Cite underwent a second siege in 1240, whilst Louis IX. was on his crusade, and Queen Blanche was regent. Very curious letters exist from Guillaume des Ormes, the seneschal to the regent, describing the siege of Carcassonne by the troops of the viscount; but for these, and for a detailed account of the fortifications, I must refer the reader to M. Viollet-le-Duc's account, in his treatise on the Military Architecture of the Middle Ages.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse